A visible, modern and contemporary regulator: Outlining our work at the Australian Financial Security Authority

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A photo of Tim Beresford smiling while wearing glasses, a white shirt and a navy tie with white dots looking to the left Building a strong credit system for Australia and supporting the flow of credit is the Australian Financial Security Authority’s (AFSA) cornerstone objective for 2023 – and beyond. Our agency’s role in overseeing the personal insolvency and personal property securities systems positions us to help build confidence in our work and in Australia’s financial system more broadly.

This article will describe our commitment to be a visible, modern and contemporary regulator – an agency who is transparent in approach and expectations, and who commits to accountability in delivering these objectives with compassion and fairness.

AFSA’s role in the credit system

Australia’s credit system is worth $3.5 trillion – or 1.6 times Australia’s GDP. Fostering confidence in this system depends on the strength of our nation’s personal insolvency and personal properties security systems.

By regulating insolvency with a firm and fair approach, AFSA helps individuals obtain a fresh start when in financial distress – while also offering remedies to those who are owed money. With over $18 billion in liabilities held within the agency’s regulatory oversight, our work is focused on considered and balanced stewardship.

Likewise, the Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR) provides peace of mind to consumers and businesses. It makes lending secure and promotes access to credit by providing a visible, online government register of interests held against a wide variety of personal property. The value on the PPSR is approximately $400 billion – or 20% of GDP. The value alone signals lending confidence and makes access to finance easier, more secure and more accessible.

A visible, modern and contemporary regulator – turning words into action

AFSA’s three clear objectives – to be a visible, modern and contemporary regulator – helps us anchor our work against deliverables and helps drive our priorities.

Our goal to be visible is focused on outreach, listening and leadership. We will continue to lead and broaden our industry forums and channels to connect with those who use our services and to best support their work. This year, our information sessions and liaison meetings with creditors, insolvency professionals and financial counsellors helped us build a strong and trusted voice. We recognise the value in providing a strong example for proven practice and hearing voices from those engaged in our industry. We look forward to offering meaningful statistics, insights and information with you as we highlight the tangible impact of our work.

Modern and contemporary – what’s the difference?

Though ‘modern’ and ‘contemporary’ are traditionally interchangeable – our approach is nuanced, with strong intentions behind each objective.

To be modern is to deliver our world-class government services by investing in our people and technology capability. We are continuing to invest in an integrated system for personal insolvency and personal property securities administration and regulation. Our work in delivering an online bankruptcy form is one example of how we are using technology to support access to our services. Our continuing staff development will provide long-term improvements by ensuring our people are knowledgeable and committed to serving the Australian public.

Our contemporary approach means that we are challenging our thinking to go beyond traditional regulation – looking at how to expand our reach and influence. We do this by taking a harms-based approach to our supervisory intensity, focusing on systemic risk and significant harms, and leveraging our regulatory toolkit. Our report into Untrustworthy Advisors demonstrates our commitment to thinking outside the box in developing ways to disrupt those who threaten our system.

Being receptive to the social climate is also part of this equation. Our Vulnerability Framework is a valuable example – signalling our contemporary response to the circumstances many of our clients are facing. We will continue to improve our services and our people capability so that our response in these circumstances is always compassionate, fair and tailored.

The opportunity to share our progress with you in these Chief Executive columns gives me a great chance to deeply reflect on the agency’s work, projects and initiatives. I appreciate the opportunity to keep our agency accountable and to deliver systems and insights that help support all users of our system and, by extension, the broader Australian public.

I wish you a very happy festive season, and a safe and prosperous new year. I look forward to connecting with you in 2023.